A 1992 Subaru Loyale station wagon wasn’t an everyday sight in 1992 and sure as hell isn’t today, in 2009, so I had to ask the fellow about it at the gas pump near Joliet. He was of slight stature and florid complexion, animated and friendly, wispily white-haired and speaking in an accent I pegged as German Alpine. In fact, he might have been the type of guy to open the liftgate of his wagon and try selling me a cuckoo clock.
The car had cost him $4600 used, and he had supervised mechanical upgrades such as new wheel bearings. I think he also mentioned replacing the engine. We agreed that the body looked great. The only bit of rust was at the rear corner, and he attributed this to a poor job on the respray.
“Say,” he asked, “do you know how to get onto Interstate 80 West?”
I turned over my left shoulder and looked at the big green sign with white letters that said Interstate 80 West, but because of a traffic island it wasn’t possible to turn left out of the station. Instead, he would need to turn right and then pull a U-ey. Now noticing the Montana license plate, I asked what part of the state he was from.
“Helena, the capital city,” he said.
I observed that it was a long ways to have come.
Oh, he explained, he already had been to Allendale, Michigan, to visit a relative. Now he was on his way to Aurora, Nebraska, to see his son, and thenceforth to Oakland, California, where his sister lives. To my response that he was making quite the tour, he said, “You never know about next year. How old do you think I am?”
I thought he was about eighty but said, “Sixty-four.”
He thumped me on the chest and said, “Seventy-nine years old. I have my good health and my Subie.”
I wished him happy travels and this morning am kicking myself for not having thought to get my camera and grab a shot of his red mug with that silver Subie.